I could see why Giovanni favoured Roberto over Shavanni. Not only was he the child of his love but he was as ruthless and cold as his father.
The meeting was anything but peaceful. The plans they were putting in place would result in bloodshed and while Giovanni, Elia and Roberto looked pleased with themselves Vanni wasn’t.
I had been around him enough times so I was used to his facial expressions. He didn’t want any part of this.
“How is the child?” Giovanni asked and I snapped my eyes towards him.
“Sleeping,” I replied and from his look, I noticed he wanted more information than that. “She was fed and bathed. She’s also more relaxed.”
“Has she tried to escape or play your weak heart into helping her out?” Elia taunted and I clenched my fists beneath the table.
“No. The most she has done is cry about her family, specifically about seeing her mother.”
This caused Elia to giggle. “Oh, she won’t be seeing her mother anytime soon, unless she survived that shot to the head.”
Her words caused my eyes to widen and my heart slowed its pace. A sudden coldness washed over me and my heart wept for Diana.
I was about her age when I lost my mother and now, she was going to go through the same pain.
“I still don’t see why you do that, mother. I was looking forward to having her a few more times. A big fuck you to Silvestre,” Roberto whined as he sat with his legs propped on the wooden table, still in his suit from earlier.
“She was pregnant…the death of her and that baby is the biggest fuck you to Nio, trust me. After all, he is my stepson.”
Roberto grinned. “I believe you are quite right mother…that was wicked even for you.”
My aversion for the people around me grew as they laughed at a child’s loss. Elia speaking as if she did not take two innocent lives and left a child motherless. My chest burned and my head started to pound as my temper only grew.
How could I have once considered either of them my family? How could I not see the darkness in their souls? Had I been so blind?
They were all monsters and we were supporting their ways, fighting for them… The accomplice was just as guilty as the offender.
“Can we move on to the plan?” Vanni’s voice cut across the mocking laughter.
My eyes flickered over to him. His face was an expressionless mask but his eyes; I could see the fire burning within them, the abhorrence, and anger.
“Oh, I forgot sore topic,” Roberto chuckled before smirking at his little brother.
“He is right. Let’s continue,” Giovanni piped up watching us with a humoured expression.
The conversation was then steered back to our plan but I couldn’t take my eyes off Vanni.
He was still in his hoodie and sweat but he had dropped the hood. His jaw was clenched, looking sharp enough to cut diamonds and he worried his fingernail with his teeth in frustration. His icy gaze was pinned to his father as he talked, his hair lazily tousled.
I noticed a silver, hoop ring on the left side of his nose. I had always seen the spot and wondered but I had swept it under the rug as a dark spot.
It fitted him. He looked so much like the bad boy gangleader you would imagine, minus the stereotypical tattoos. Yet, he was not a bad boy nor did he want to be a gangleader…he was sweet and kind. He only wanted to be free to make his own choices…to be free from this hurtful life.
Vanni was raised by his mother up to age three, which was when she lost her life. He didn’t remember much about her and like me he held resentment towards his father for her death. Vanni didn’t know who killed his mother but he knew it was no accident. I knew it was no accident, after all, Elia confessed. The heaviness of this knowledge settled on my chest making me feel guiltier than when we broke up.
“…that is our approach. The others will be informed accordingly and we will make the necessary preparations. I will contact Silvestre and make my demand,” Giovanni stated standing to his feet. “Shaneil call the children in the hall for a meeting then follow us. Everyone else is dismissed.”
Everyone rose, exiting the room and I followed suit, pretending as if I had heard what was being said. I wanted to ask but it was obvious Giovanni would repeat at the meeting with the kids…but my mind then pondered, why would he need to tell the children?
I made my way to the intercom and alerted the compound of the mandatory meeting through the speakers before turning to spot Giovanni and his ‘family’ exiting the room. I followed close behind them, the ride in the elevator awkward as I was between both Ferrez sons.
When the elevator stopped, I could finally breathe as I stepped towards the railing. Children were piling into the room from both sides of the stairs and when they were settled Giovanni begun his speech.
“Saldremos a negociar con una poderosa mafia en los próximos días para consolidar a las Cobras de Atlanta como una fuerza a tener en cuenta. Los mayores de 13 años participarán como fuerzas adicionales y serán informados por Shaneil y Shavanni,” Giovanni said in their native tongue shocking most of the children and myself.
We will be going out to negotiate with a powerful Mafia in the upcoming days to cement the Atlanta Cobras as a force to be reckoned with. Those 13 and older will be participating as additional forces and will be briefed by Shaneil and Shavanni.
I looked at him in disbelief before looking at Vanni who met my gaze with a look of indifference. How could he not show any anger at the madness his father is proposing? They were just kids!
“Es fundamental para nuestra victoria que todos los niños que pueden luchar estén presentes durante esta reunión. Debería estar en el patio trasero a las 7 a.m. para su sesión informativa. Eso sería todo,” Giovanni stated flatly as if this was boring him. It is crucial to our victory for all children who can fight to be on site during this meeting. You should be in the backyard at 7 a.m. for your briefing. That will be all
“They are just children,” I stated turning to stare at Giovanni with wide eyes. “How can we send them into a situation that they are not trained for?!”
My voice was hysterical something Giovanni found annoying based on the irritation in his blue eyes. In his sharp, grey suit, his blonde hair swept back in a low ponytail and the lights dancing over his hauntingly attractive features. Giovanni Ferrez looked devilish and cold as he peered at me.
“That means you need to train them well by then. If not they die,” he stated, his tone clipped and I shook my head in disbelief and shock, my heart pounding.
“It does not matter your views, brat. They will fight as your leader has said,” Elia hissed stepping towards me with a cold look. “Weakness is not tolerated here. If they die, they are weak and should die for their flaw.”
Her words were like a slap to the face and the sick humour in her gaze made my body tremble in anger and fear…fear for the children looking up at us.
“We expect you to take full leadership here, Shavanni. Failure is not an option and it seems Shaneil is in no state to lead efficiently. Do not fuck this up, hijo.”
With that, Giovanni, Elia and Roberto turned, taking their leave and I stood frozen gazing at the children. Here they were looking up at me but I could do nothing to shield them from the evil of this life, from the devil.
Giovanni would put them in the field without proper training. For fucksakes, I was properly trained and I could barely kill anyone…and he wanted to use children. This was infanticide…
…and Vanni he just—he—
“Why didn’t you try and stop him?!” I hissed turning to glare at Vanni as the children started to freak out, Giovanni’s words sinking in. “You are his son. Soon-to-be heir and their soon-to-be leader! Why didn’t you try and stop him from doing this?!”
Vanni looked at me, tears streaming down my cheeks as my mind ran wild with the possibility of everyone dying. My friends, my peers and the young teens who had their futures ahead of them. If the deal went south and the Mafia attacked, everyone would die.
Innocent lives would be lost.
“You should know better than that Shaneil, when my father makes a demand or sets his mind to something… No one can change it,” he stated gruffly, not meeting my gaze.
“…but you didn’t even try!” I shouted in anger at how nonchalant he was.
“It wouldn’t have made a difference! How can you not see that?! I have no real power here. I am as much a pawn as you are—”
“That doesn’t make a difference, even a mere pawn can become king! You have more power than anyone of us does, yet you don’t use it! These kids are going to step onto the field and possibly die! How can you stand here and not try to change that?! How can you stand here knowing their deaths will be in our hands and not help!”
“Hey, what are you thinking about?” Gavin asked as he took a seat beside me on the ground. knocking from my thoughts.
I looked up at him in the firelight. He was shirtless with black sweats covering his lower half. I was in my black tank-top and matching track pants, the sweat from our earlier workout sticky on my sink.
The children were around the small bonfire we had made in the backyard, laughing and talking while eating S’mores. Those who were let off early had bathed and changed but us, older teens had just finished our training session.
Gavin had volunteered the idea of having a bonfire setting to help the kids relax before that day and looking around at their smiling faces, I was glad I agreed to it.
“Everything,” I replied as I took the beer that he held out to me, gazing up at the starry sky.
I was not one for alcohol but I needed a little buzz.
“Stop worrying. The negotiation will go over smoothly and everyone will be okay,” he stated before taking a swing of his beer and sighing. “They say taking we should talk things into being. So I am. It will all work out.”
I looked up at his dark eyes and sighed before taking a sip of my beer. Everything will be alright and everyone will be safe.
“I hope so.”
“It will be so,” he replied before standing and holding out his hand to me. “Now, this is a bonfire party and Wayne and Jenny are playing their guitars for ambiance. Will you care to dance with me, mi luz?”
He gave me that flirty face and even with the heaviness on my heart, I took his hand and allowed him to carry me closer to the fire.
The music from the guitars got louder as we stood near the fire, the heat nipping at my skin. Gavin placed his hand with the beer behind my back, the other clasping my free hand. My beer rested against his back in my hand as we sway to the music, Gavin’s flirty ways making me laugh uncontrollably.
His flirting was harmless and it made me feel almost normal again…well, the normal I was used to.
PJ interrupted us as the next song started, claiming her dance with her bestie and sending Gavin to the side-lines. The music became livelier and we twirled, twisted and clapped. The older teens sang traditional Spanish songs, dancing and having a merry time, ignoring the upcoming threat.
Artemis and Orion pulled me away from PJ moments after the dances kicked off and tried to stuff me with S’mores. Even Diana was here, playing with a few girls her age since I had to keep her with me at all times.
I had pulled her to the dancefloor, twirling her around. She deserved even one night of laughter before the news of her mother reached her. She was a natural and even ended up teaching me a few moves, giggling all the way.
When the heat of the dance cooled, Hanes, an older teen, had called everyone to sit around the fire and started to tell stories to keep us occupied. I was highly aware of the silhouette leaning against a tree not too far from our spot, watching us. The firelight glinted on his nose ring, illuminating his features, a sadness in his gaze. Though he watched us he never ventured towards us and nor did I to him.
“So, there was a rich nobleman who had three sons; and the king, being very fond of him, appointed the eldest son his page, the second his butler, and the youngest his barber.
The barber fell in love with the king’s only daughter, who was equally fond of him; and when this came to the ears of the king, he decided on putting a stop to it; so he called for the princess, and said—
“I know that you are in love with my barber, and if you insist on marrying him I will have you killed.”
The princess, on hearing her father say this, became very sorrowful, and asked him to allow her one day for consideration, to which the king acceded. She then went to her room, and getting together some of her finest dresses, she made them up into a bundle, and left the palace by a secret door…” Hanes said, retelling the folktale The Wise King of Leon in his native language.
The children sat together staring at the red-head with wide eyes of wonder and PJ even leaned on me listening to the tale. By time Hames was through, majority of the kids had all fell asleep under the stars too tired to make it to our rooms.
We had decided to stay outdoors since the weather was fair. Garnering blankets we ensured the kids were comfortable before laying down on our own blankets, watching the stars overhead until we fell asleep.